Liberal Democrat Muslim Network launched in Birmingham

Launch of Lib Dem Muslim NetworkMuslim Liberal Democrat members and activists from across all parts of the country came together on Saturday 3 May in Birmingham to promote a strong Muslim network within the Party in support of greater inclusion, dialogue and campaigning.

The key aims of the Network are:

1. Promote the party amongst Muslim communities across the UK

2. Provide a support mechanism for Muslim members within the Party

3. Promote dialogue and greater understanding of Muslim communities in the UK

4. Promote interfaith dialogue, respect and understanding

Chief guest Rt Hon. Simon Hughes MP welcomed over 100 Muslim campaigners, many of whom were councillors and approved parliamentary candidates and gave his full support to the launch event.  Simon said that he completely understood the value to the party and need for such an initiative whilst endorsing the invaluable role that it will play in acting as a bridge to the 2.7 million Muslims in the UK.

Simon Hughes MP acknowledged the positive influence and the contribution that the growing Muslim communities were having in the country, and that Muslims should be appropriately represented throughout the UK’s leadership

Simon Hughes received a standing ovation for his leadership and support in promoting diversity and his support to get the Network launched. He is a figure that many in the UK’s diverse BAME communities, respect and in recognition of his contribution to community cohesion, it was overwhelmingly agreed that he be appointed as its first Honorary President.

I had organised the launch and was also elected by the meeting to become the new organisation’s first interim Chair to lead the Network up until its first AGM. The meeting also appointed an interim Council of 30 members from across the country to support me in this role.

Supporting the event were Birmingham MP John Hemmings  and Lord Qurban Hussain. Baroness Meral Hussein Ece, whilst unable to attend, played a key role in establishing the groundwork for mobilising members from across the country to attend.

Brent Central target seat Parliamentary Candidate Ibrahim Taguri sent a letter of support to the launch meeting and wished the new organisation well.  He felt that this was a much needed forum for promoting the party amongst the 60 Parliamentary seats across the country with sizable Muslim communities.

I said that the new network would help to steer the Liberal Democrat Party towards a greater and more positive understanding of UK’s Muslim communities. I spoke about sharing the belief that the Liberal Democrat Party above all others has the ability to be at the forefront of the development of a more inclusive approach to politics whilst promoting liberal values not only in the UK, but internationally as well.

* Issan Ghazni is Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and former National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats. Issan blogs here

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30 Comments

  • Charles Rothwell 10th May '14 - 10:50am

    Sounds great, especially your stating “the belief that the Liberal Democrat Party above all others has the ability to be at the forefront of the development of a more inclusive approach to politics whilst promoting liberal values not only in the UK, but internationally as well.” I wish you every success in dispelling the myth that Labour is somehow “the natural party of the BAME communities” (while Respect, of course, is virtually entirely a one-man show (Galloway, who seems to see his duties as an MP as being way below his commitments to attending conferences in Venezuela and hosting his talk show on ‘Russia Today’ etc!) Good Luck also in “promoting the party amongst the 60 Parliamentary seats across the country with sizable Muslim communities” (which will certainly entail working with contacts in my part of the world (West Yorkshire)). All the best!

  • Congratulations on this initiative Issan and on your election as inaugral Chair.In my neck of the woods in the London Borough of Hounslow, we have a strong and politically active Muslim community and a number of Muslim Libdem activists who will welcome the establishment of this network.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th May '14 - 5:04pm

    I’d also like to welcome this initiative. I’ve always been pro multi-faith community.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th May '14 - 6:54pm

    I want to join others in welcome this important initiative., and thank Issan for the leadership he has showed in getting this off the ground. The need for sensible moderate dialogue to bring greater understanding of people from the many Muslim communities in the UK is desperately needed. I’m proud to be associate with this, and welcome the fact that the Network is open to people from other faiths who support the aims and objectives. At a time when we are seeing the depressing media hysteria and misinformation on all things relating to Muslims, it’s time we in the Liberal Democrats promoted open and moderate dialogue and understanding, which will assist us with campaigning within the UKs diverse communities.

  • Leon Duveen 10th May '14 - 8:11pm

    Well done Issan, we need to show the Muslim community that it is the Liberal Democrats (not Labour) that really stands up for all minorities and works to promote equality of opportunity.

  • Jonathan Brown 10th May '14 - 8:36pm

    This is really great news – thank you so much to all involved in setting this up.

    I’d also like to congratulate you on launching in Birmingham rather than London. Both cities obviously have sizeable Muslim communities, but I think it sends a really positive message from the start that the network is from and for the grassroots across the country rather than a subcommittee of a London-centric organisation.

    I look forward to learning more about how to join and support this group.

  • Robert Adamson 10th May '14 - 9:06pm

    Best wishes to everyone involved. I

  • Robert Adamson 10th May '14 - 9:11pm

    I really hope that the Party is seen to welcome people of all faiths (& none) into our family.

  • I was present at the Launch event in Birmingham and would commend Issan and organisers for this excellent initiative in ensuring that the voice of all sections of the community is represented within the party, both at local and national levels. I hope that with the dedication of those present further cooperation and positive efforts can be made, to improve policy making and to promote new ideas. Issan, congratulations on excellent analysis in setting out the current priorities and mappin a way forward.

  • I believe faith can bring a sense of perspective to politics.

    I warmly welcome this initiative and hope it becomes a new source of success for the party.

  • Rabi Martins 11th May '14 - 12:37pm

    This is a good way for the Party to demonstrate that it is keen to engage with BAME communities, of which the Muslim Community is a significant part, at every level
    Having backing from Simon Hughes for this initiative is further evidence of support for the initiative at the highest level within the Party Leadership

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 11th May '14 - 1:55pm

    Dear Liberal Democrats,

    I as a Vice Chair of EMLD and as the English Party Diversity Champion I had the greatest pleasure and honour to be present at the launch of the Liberal Democrat Muslim Network (LDMN) which I give my total support to.

    This is an incredibly useful initiative for it gives grassroots Muslim activists an opportunity for the first time to have their voices heard at the highest levels within the Party, which have historically largely been ignored in favour listening to the apparently more acceptable ‘Wine & Cheese Party’ attenders who purport to speak on behalf of all ‘liberal’ Muslims as if they one homogenous group.

    I was personally bowled over by the self challenging views being expressed by the attendees that included a significant cross-section of the wealth of diversity that exists within the Muslim community within the UK. Hopefully as Party HQ hears and see’s kore of these previously ignored members their confidence will grow that the Liberal Party does have the ability to engage with Muslims throughout the country, and that they are not merely followers of Labour or Respect, but many are naturally genuine followers of the tenets of the Liberal Democrat Party.

    As to a positive future I am pleased to announce that having spoken with Issan Ghazni the interim Chair about the support that this refreshingly new group and give, I can announce that along with EMLD and other members of the Party the LDMN be prominent in Brent Central assisting our exceptional candidate for Parliament, Ibraham Taguri, and his equally inspiring team to retain this seat for our Party.

    Congratulations I feel needs to be given to not only Issan, who has tirelessly travelled the country building the support for this network, whilst also campaigning for the European Elections as a potential MEP, and being Chair of EMLD, and also to Meral and Qurban who have given it their total support, and Mohammed Shafiq who has been subject of demonisation by some as a result of defending the right to be a Muslim and hold liberal principles, as well as all of the other attendees, many of whom will become known to the wider Party over time.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair
    Liberal Democrat South Central Region Executive – Diversity Officer

  • Dr Zulfiqar Ali 12th May '14 - 2:10am

    Launch of LDMN was a much needed initiative both for the party and for the grass-root muslim activists.
    It is an honour for LDMN that Minister for Justice Simon Hughes MP has graciously accepted to be its Patron and John Hemmings MP has supported its launch and cause.
    Well done issan and all those grass-root activists who have travelled from across the country to take part in succesful launch of LDMN, no doubt we all would work together to write its constituition and to promote LD in muslim community.These are testing times for our party and any such initiative would be appreciated by everyone.

    Zulfiqar

  • Malcolm Todd 12th May '14 - 9:20am

    Mike Guillaume

    1. Yes, of course they can, and are. That’s no reason why they shouldn’t also be promoted through a religious channel. Or do you think religion and religious people don’t need liberalism?

    2. Why on earth would a liberal oppose the creation of a mutual support group? As for why Muslim members might need special support mechanisms – perhaps because of the attitudes of some, even in the Liberal Democrats, to Muslims and Islam? Are you also, incidentally, opposed to groups like Liberal Democrat Women?

    3. To equate “dialogue and greater understanding of Muslim communities in the UK” with “appeasement” is either profoundly ignorant or deliberately offensive. Do you think that Muslims are the enemy? Do you think dialogue and understanding are bad things (even with your enemy)?

    4. Apparently (see your point 3), it doesn’t.

  • Rabi Martins 12th May '14 - 10:10am

    @Mike G – Surely you accept that society as whole benefits when a community or a section of community makes a concerted effort to organise itself and influence the body politic

    As far as I can tell this is the motivation that led to the establishment of LDMN
    It is a fact that muslims form the largest of the settled immgrant communities in the UK It therefore follows that this section of our community has a reason to want to influence government policy The best way to faciliate this is through an organised forum such as the LDMN seeks to be I am assuming it will be a forum that welcomes input from everyone and not just muslims

  • Meral Hussein-Ece 12th May '14 - 10:00pm

    @Malcom Todd – you’ve answered the illiberal points made by Mr Guillaume, very well. ‘Words like ‘Appeasement’ used about the UKs Muslim communities indicate his mindset.
    Presumably he objects to the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum too?

  • Mike Guillaume raises valid questions and comments. I attended a hustings at the Pakistani Welfare Association over the weekend. Most of the issues discussed were the same local concerns raised at a hustings I attended a couple of weeks ago at St. Pauls CofE church. The issues raised with respect to the Muslim community specifically were threefold:

    1. The Muslim community in the London Borough of Hounslow constitutes 14% of the population. Members of the Hindu and Sikh communities were dis-proportionality represented on the council, but there were no Muslim cabinet members. Would the parties commit commit to redressing the imbalance? The answer from all three main parties was that appointments are made solely on merit and the ability to represent all members of a ward without reference to religious persuasion or ethnic background and based on either experience and accomplishments as a councillor or the popular vote of a council group.

    2. The second issue was around Islamaphobia and crime prevention. The answers to this question focused on local authority co-operation with the Metropolitan police and did not delve into the causes of Islamaphobia. There is a useful analysis by Mudar Zahra who, as a Muslim living in the UK asks,Who is responsible for Islamaphobia in the UK?, and answers the question by concluding that Muslims are the main source of “Islamophobia” — by the evil and disturbing acts of some Muslims, and above all by the silence of the majority regarding those acts. For this reason alone, we need to encourage Muslims in our local community to engage with politics locally and nationally and vocally distance themselves from acts of terror and ant-social behaviour undertaken by fanatics. I believe this initiative of a Liberal Democrat Muslim Network can aid in the process of communicating that British Muslims abhor these acts just as much as anyone else.

    3. The third issue raised was that of Halal meat. All respondents answered that they had no personal objections to eating Halal meat with the caveat that the animal had been properly stunned prior to slaughter. We should not shirk from criticising Sharia law or traditions where they are profoundly illiberal or antithetical to western civilisation and British justice. No one in their right mind would attempt to justify the actions of Boko Haram or the shooting of the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousaksai on the grounds of Sharia law or any other conceivable grounds. The reaction to the announcement by the Sultan of Brunei that he intends to introduce Sharia Law into the criminal justice system is a natural enough expression of concern by human rights advocates
    We should hail the celebrity boycott of the Dorchester over the sultan and sharia law

    The promotion of dialogue and greater understanding of Muslim communities in the UK is a two way street. We will only get that dialogue and understanding with Muslim councillors, parliamentarians and community activists actively engaging in the body politic.

  • Mike,

    you might want to read some of the feedback to comments from Maajid Nawaz last month to realise why
    liberal principles and ideals need to be promoted amongst Muslim communities across the UK and support mechanisms created for Muslim members of the party Muslims find Liberalism reprehensible

  • Mike,

    Maajid added: “Liberalism attempts to bring everyone together on a table and discuss and respect each other.”

    The discussion we had on Islamaphobia at the hustings I attended last weekend focused on crime and prevention. It was noted that overall levels of crime in London has been falling consistently for some years and in West London where I live there were very few incidents of any specific anti-muslim crime.

    There tends to be a reaction in the media (broadcast, print and social), as you would expect, following a terrorist incident such as occurred in Woolwich last year or when there is a prominent issue such as the protracted deportations of Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada. Outside of such media reactions, there is little evidence of any longer-term tensions in the community.

    That is in large part as consequence of the fact that the muslim community in West London is quite long settled having been established in the sixties and seventies. Many of the residents are British born, have grown-up in the community, attended school with their neighbours and live and work together.

    The older generation of Muslims are often quite conservative and more interested in what is happening in Pakistan or Bangladesh then the UK (perhaps this is the generation to whom Maajid refers). The younger generation are much more diverse in their views and lifestyles and, as with other immigrant families, have much less of a connection to the countries of their parents.

    This younger generation are not the labour voting block that many of their parents were. They are open to Liberal principles and ideals and have the same interest (or lack thereof) in politics as their generational peers and the same disdain for hate preachers stirring up trouble as most of us do.

    Islamaphobia is largely a creation of a vocal group of fundamentalist extremists that are odds with mainstream British muslim opinion and who seek to create and build a divide between the Muslim community and the rest of British society. Once we all recognise this fact and have in place a phalanx of Liberal Muslim community leaders to counter the rhetoric of the fundamentalists and extremists, we will be much better equipped to deal with the instigators of division and community tensions.

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